About the Author

Shirley M. Watts

Shirley M. Watts

Judge, Court of Appeals of Maryland


Issue: What sanction should be imposed upon an attorney who: (1) represented her niece in annulment/divorce matter in Virginia even though lawyer was not licensed to practice law in Virginia and even though conflict of interest existed due to lawyer’s representation of niece’s husband in immigration matter; (2) provided incompetent representation and advanced ground for annulment without conducting adequate research or speaking to client; (3) authorized co-counsel to sign settlement agreements on behalf of her niece despite failing to advise her niece of agreements and to obtain her consent; (4) misrepresented niece’s ability to communicate in English and her consent to terms of settlement agreements; (5) held herself out as specializing in immigration and corporate law; and (6) concealed her role in her niece’s representation from trial court?

Holding: This attorney's multiple misrepresentations over a significant period of time, combined with her involvement in submitting a false agreement to a Virginia court, and her efforts to conceal her own misconduct, led a five-member majority to disbar her.

Alleged Violations: Maryland Lawyers’ Rules of  Professional Conduct (“MLRPC”) 1.1 (Competence), 1.2(a) (Scope of Representation),  1.4(a) (Communication), 1.7(a) (Conflict of Interest: General Rule), 1.16(a) (Declining or  Terminating Representation), 3.1 (Meritorious Claims and Contentions), 3.7(a) (Lawyer as Witness), 4.1(a) (Truthfulness in Statements to Others), 5.5(a) (Unauthorized Practice of Law), 7.4(a) (Communication of Fields of Practice), 8.4(c) (Dishonesty, Fraud, Deceit, or Misrepresentation), 8.4(d) (Conduct That Is Prejudicial to the Administration of Justice), and 8.4(a) (Violating MLRPC).

Citation: Misc. Docket AG No. 11, September Term, 2013
  • Decided on .
Attorney Grievance defense attorney specializes in defending lawyers in disciplinary proceedings before the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission and the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility involving professional misconduct, legal ethics, disbarment, suspensions of law licenses, petitions for disciplinary action, reprimands and sanctions for unethical conduct. If you receive a letter from Bar Counsel Lydia Lawless, Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox, or from any attorney disciplinary board in Maryland or the District of Columbia, retain experienced attorneys with expertise in lawyer discipline and breach of ethics cases to avoid sanctions for professional misconduct. We help lawyers avoid disbarment, suspension, reprimands, censure and informal admonitions by drafting responses to client grievances and ethical complaints; representing lawyers in peer reviews, evidentiary hearings, and oral arguments before the BPR and the Court of Appeals; filing petitions to reinstate an attorney's license to practice law; conducting law firm ethical compliance audits; and drafting legal ethics opinions to protect lawyers from ethics charges. In many cases, disciplinary proceedings may be dismissed, dismissed with a warning, or result in a conditional diversion agreement with Bar Counsel to rectify misconduct. Lawyers may need help in managing their law firm attorney escrow IOLTA trust account and complying with attorney trust accounting rules to avoid charges of ethical misconduct. Do not represent yourself in responding to an attorney grievance, law firm client complaint, or other allegation of ethical impropriety. Attorney grievance defense counsel may help you comply with legal ethics rules, avoid sanctions like suspension or disbarment, and avoid future attorney grievances.


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